Study of the impact of long-duration space missions at the International Space Station on the astronaut microbiome
Voorhies AA, Mark Ott C, Mehta S, Pierson DL, Crucian BE, Feiveson A, Oubre CM, Torralba M, Moncera K, Zhang Y, Zurek E, Lorenzi HA
Over the course of a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) crew members are exposed to a number of stressors that can potentially alter the composition of their microbiomes and may have a negative impact on astronauts' health. Here we investigated the impact of long-term space exploration on the microbiome of nine astronauts that spent six to twelve months in the ISS. We present evidence showing that the microbial communities of the gastrointestinal tract, skin, nose and tongue change during the space mission. The composition of the intestinal microbiota became more similar across astronauts in space, mostly due to a drop in the abundance of a few bacterial taxa, some of which were also correlated with changes in the cytokine profile of crewmembers. Alterations in the skin microbiome that might contribute to the high frequency of skin rashes/hypersensitivity episodes experienced by astronauts in space were also observed. The results from this study demonstrate that the composition of the astronauts' microbiome is altered during space travel. The impact of those changes on crew health warrants further investigation before humans embark on long-duration voyages into outer space.